Fitness center continues to make improvements

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area Community Center's fitness center was on the verge of closing three years ago before it underwent a serious renovation.

"Three years ago, the place was in horrible financial condition, and a new board took over," fitness center manager Leo Johnston said. "Since then, it's doing really well."

Johnston, who is on the community center's board of directors, runs the fitness center by making sure the center is staffed, replacing and maintaining equipment, doing improvements, keeping it clean and taking suggestions from the community.

In fact, Johnston became involved with the community's fitness center by working out in the facility and was worried about it being in a state of disarray.

"We saw it going downhill, and we got together and started talking to form the board," he said. "I thought, Punxsutawney can't lose their community center; it's too important to the community."

According to Johnston, the center has put more than $60,000 into new equipment and maintenance.

The center now has seven treadmills, five elliptical machines, six stationary bikes and a rowing machine. It also has equipment needed to exercise complete muscle groups in the legs, arms, back, stomach and butt. There is also a section in the back of the center with free weights for heavy lifters.

Johnston said another big change for the center was having it staffed every hour of the day. The fitness center expanded its hours in order to accommodate more community members. The fitness center is now open seven days a week — from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to noon Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Before the renovation, Johnston said that the front desk of the fitness center was usually staffed only in the mornings. This was especially bad for the financial situation of the center.

"What we really needed to target on was getting the place covered as long as we were open, meaning somebody at the front desk," Rob McCoy, director of Punxsutawney Area Community Center, said. "Because in the past, if you didn't have anybody covering it, people would just come in, so you're not getting the funding. They're just coming in for free."

Having someone at the front desk ensures not only that people aren't coming in for free, but people are using the equipment safely.

"They aren't personal trainers, so they won't stand and watch you work out for thirty minutes," Johnston said. "But they will say, 'This is how you work the machine;' then it's up to you."

Johnston has also enlisted the support of Wayne Howard, a licensed instructor, who comes in several times a month to show members the proper usage of each piece of equipment.

Johnston said members have been very receptive to this service, with an average of 15 to 20 people showing up for Howard's session. Howard also makes himself available for personal training sessions.

Although personal training sessions are available, Johnston said most people that come in to the fitness center, work out under the "buddy system," meaning with a friend or family member.

"Working out is not an individual sport," he said. "You have someone else to be with, so you don't feel ridiculous,... and that's important."

After the renovation, the board of directors made the decision to raise membership prices from $25 a month to $30.

"It's just to try to make the difference on the new equipment that we got," McCoy said. "I mean, we want to just keep on going up. Whatever new equipment comes out, we want to try to get. At $25, it was tough because whatever money we bring in, that's what we have to use."

McCoy said the fitness center and community center rarely gets any outside funding.

Despite the increase in pricing, Johnston said the number of members has actually increased. Three years ago, the fitness center was bringing in about $1,800 per month in membership fees, and today it is earning over $6,000, according to Johnston.

"The community has embraced it, but now they have something to embrace," Johnston said.

There are over 300 members of the fitness center, and that number increases by about 150 when IUP is in session, according to McCoy. McCoy said he set up a deal with IUP where students can use the fitness center's facilities, and the fee is included in their tuition.

The fitness center now also has a family membership option, where families living in the same household pay $55 per month for full use of the facilities. The largest family has seven members who take advantage of the single price.

The center also now offers a daily rate, where people can use the fitness center throughout the entire day for just $5.

According to Johnston, most people pay by the month, but there are a few who pay the daily rate, especially those from out of town.

Johnston also offers a special membership rate for those who plan to stay with the fitness long-term. A person can pay for five months in full and receive the sixth month free.

McCoy said how thankful he was for Johnston's help in the renovation of the fitness center, noting that many of the changes were under Johnston's direction.

"Leo was a big key in the fitness center," McCoy said. "He pretty much turned it around with just a little help, here and there."